Welcome to , 03 Jun 2012
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

RUSSIAN CHURCH GIVES 500,000 EUROS TO HELP POOR GREEKS
from UPI

Greek poverty (25 May) Russian Orthodox Church plans to donate thousands of dollars to soup kitchens in Greece, officials say. The Orthodox Church of Russia began its fundraising campaign in February, ekathimerini.com reported. By Tuesday it had raised about 500,000 euros ($625,000) through appeals to monasteries, churches and individuals. Patriarch Kirill urged Russians to help the growing number of homeless people in Greece. "People see the problem in Greece as their own," a Russian church official said. Sources told ekathimerini.com the money would go to soup kitchens run by the Greek Orthodox Church.

Focus Information Agency reports that the fundraiser started February 19, 2012, following a written decision that had been sent to the churches and monasteries of the Patriarchate across the country. The donations, in amounts of 100 to 400 rubles ($3 to $12), did not only come from people of the cities, but also people who lived in remote regions or even abroad, explains the Chief Financial Officer of the Department for Charity and Social Ministry of the Russian Orthodox Church Konstantin Basilov.


KAZAKHSTAN: "THE CHURCH WILL BE CLOSED DOWN ANYWAY"
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(30 May) Kazakhstan continues to use land use regulations as a means to prevent religious communities and their members exercising freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. In one of several recent examples, in Taldykorgan the authorities have with this tactic forced a Methodist church to "voluntarily" close and fined the wife of the Church's Pastor. Pastor Valery Kim told Forum 18 that the Church paid for an announcement in newspapers that it was liquidating itself. "We do not want more punishment from the authorities," he noted.

Zhumagul Alimbekov, Head of Almaty Region's Agency of Religious Affairs (ARA) Department told Forum 18 that "the Church will be closed down anyway, unless they can collect 50 signatures for re-registration." Asked why Kazakhstan, whose government loudly boasts of its alleged religious tolerance, obstructs people exercising the internationally recognised right to freedom of religion or belief, Alimbekov claimed: "We are a law-governed state, we must obey the law." Religious communities also note that "expert analyses" by the ARA are obstructing communities gaining state registration and so permission to exist. [read more...]


PATRIARCH KIRILL CRITICIZES ATTEMPTS TO PROMOTE A LIBERAL SYSTEM OF LAW IN THE WORLD
from Interfax-Religion

(30 May) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said all attempts to build a world without God will fail. "The atheistic model of people's development failed together with the ideologies of the 20th century," the Patriarch said at the fourth congress of the leaders of world and traditional religions held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday. When attempts are made to put religion into a ghetto, separating it from social processes, "such attempts now appear to be hasty and unrealistic. They will fail in the same way as the grandiose state atheism project failed," Patriarch Kirill said. "The idea of supremacy of autonomous reason, maximal freedom, constantly expanding limits of secular life, and separation of people from God and traditions began to be promoted last century," he said.

"Millions of our contemporaries, mainly young people, have found themselves participating in a global experiment aimed at forcing a system of utilitarian values on us. Never in its history has mankind experienced such systemic forcing of global social, cultural, philosophical standards," Patriarch Kirill said. In this system, sin becomes the norm and "there is no concept of morals, there is only a concept of comfort," he said. To achieve comfort, young couples give up childbearing and kill babies they conceive. [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: BAPTIST CONVICTED ON EVIDENCE "FABRICATED" BY POLICE
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(22 May) Kazakhstan continues to punish people exercising their internationally recognised right to freedom of religion or belief without state permission, Forum 18 News Service notes. Raids, often without search warrants, have continued on members of the Baptist Council of Churches, who on principle do not seek state registration. In a particularly serious development, Baptist Vasiliy Stakhnev appears to have been framed by police and then given a large fine for the "offense" of distributing religious literature - which he vehemently insists that he did not do.

Police apparently pressured his neighbours to write false testimonies against him, one neighbour telling Forum 18 that he is "not even sure what I signed for the police." Stakhnev insisted to Forum 18 that he had not distributed any literature, and that he was only "guilty" of possessing Christian literature in his private home. Local police chief Serikhan Tozhigitov of Serebryansk Police claimed to Forum 18 that: "We did not force anyone to sign anything." [read more...]


COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: CHURCHES MUST NOT BE MADE EQUAL TO COMMERCIAL ORGANIZATIONS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(1 June) The heads of churches and religious organizations are concerned about the efforts to deprive them of the special status as legal persons and to make them equal to commercial institutions as regards the procedure of state registration thereof. The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations stated so at the session of 30 May in Kyiv held under the chairmanship of the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav, reported the Institute for Religious Freedom.

The participants of the meeting discussed the question of the legal capacity of religious organizations which assumed the status of the legal person by way of registration of their statutes but did not undergo the procedure of the state registration envisaged by the Law of Ukraine "On state registration of legal persons and physical persons, entrepreneurs." [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

DOZENS HELD AFTER ORTHODOX CHURCH ACTIVISTS BROKE UP MOSCOW GAY RALLIES
from Reuters

SOME HALF OF RUSSIANS BELIEVE ORTHODOX CHURCH NEEDS PUBLIC PROTECTION - POLL
from Interfax-Religion

BACK FROM THE BRINK: MOSCOW'S "RUSSIAN-AMERICAN INSTITUTE" IS GROWING ONCE AGAIN
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

DESPITE FRACTURED RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, CHURCH OPENS IN BELARUS
from Mission Network News

OFFICIALS AND ACTIVISTS OF UOC-MP IN SUMY PROHIBIT BAPTISTS FROM ORGANIZING EVENT FOR CHILDREN
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT TO CONSIDER CHANGES IN RELIGION LAW
from Religia i pravo

See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

The economic crisis in Europe is reaching Russia, according to our first news article. Just 20 years ago Russia was experiencing similar economic turmoil, with the government printing paper rubles as fast as the presses could crank them out, simply in order to pay the public employees and pensioners. Cheryl and I lived through one million percent hyperinflation in Russia during the 1990s. Now Russian Orthodox believers are helping their Greek fellow-believers who are facing the same sort of problems: millions of people unemployed and a government addicted to easy money now running out of credit. Our third news article explains the reason: when a country - even a nominally Christian land - turns away from living under God's laws and turns to the idols of easy money and comfort, God lets them feel the consequences of their choices. And the news headline about the Russian-American Institute in Moscow is near to our hearts: Cheryl and I have taught there.

Select to see full-size!We thought you might want to know before our next issue: Just after notifying our subscribers about this latest (3 June) issue, we received the news that on about May 30, our dear friend and client, Serafima Katoshkina, went to be with the Lord. She had Multiple Sclerosis, and when we first met her and began taking care of her, she could barely walk by herself. Gradually her condition worsened: she needed a walker to keep from falling, and later she became completely bedridden. About five years ago her husband Zhenia (Evgenii) died suddenly of a heart attack at home.

Lilia, a person who frequently visited Serafima in her nursing home, emailed us: "I must inform you of sad news: our Sima has ended her suffering. If I'm not mistaken, it occurred on May 30. They took her to the hospital, and on that very night it occurred. I learned about it on Saturday, June 2. Now she has probably met There her dear Zhenia and is running, jumping on her feet along the meadows and gathering flowers. May the ground be like fluffy down for her.

PS. She received your Christmas and Easter cards, and was very happy."

Please use the comment form below if you'd like to express your condolences and prayers.

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Does God Grade on a Curve?

Once upon a time there was a great economist who advocated against "fractional reserve banking," that is, against allowing the state to print paper money that is not backed up by something of value - precious metals, or actual goods and services. When the state allows the banking system to issue long-term loans based on future income or profits that are impossible to reasonably project 30 years into the future, the state and the moneylenders reap a profit of 74% interest in the first six years of a 5% loan. Such loans allow banks to actually create new money out of thin air at a rate of about 5 or 6 times of the banks' deposits, or "fractional reserve banking," which vastly inflates the money supply and fuels inflation. Then in six years people "move up," buy a new home, take out another 30-year loan, and give the state and the moneylenders another 74% profit! (Read about this in my Escaping Debt Slavery article.) For this advance in economics, the great economist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Many young economists were won over to this conservative approach in economics, earned their Ph.D. degrees and taught it in universities. One such professor, a follower of this Nobel Prize winner, wrote a textbook and taught this approach in "Economics 101" to his lecture hall of 100 students. But his graduate students became infatuated with phrases like the "velocity of money," "quantitative easing" and the "elasticity of the money supply" - it can be stretched and manipulated at will: the state can overcome an economic recession by "stimulating the economy" - printing and spending money that isn't backed up by something of value. They did not stop to think that a rubber band is elastic too: it can be stretched and stretched... until it breaks, or snaps back and hits you quite hard. The absurd idea that "deficits don't matter" - the state can pay off its debts simply by printing more money - even gained a following. The above professor divided his Economics 101 class into five discussion groups of 20 students each and led one of them, and four of his grad student teaching assistants led the other four discussion groups.

What happened next? The students in the professor's discussion group were able to ask questions and get the right answers to the intricacies of this school of thought. But when students in the other four discussion groups asked questions, the teaching assistants would offer their own opinions, questioning the wisdom of the professor. Many times they would wander completely off topic and just "have a good chat." As a result, on the final exam the students in the professor's discussion group earned grades ranging from B- to A+, but the students in the other discussion groups only received grades of C- to B+. Some didn't even earn a passing grade. A few of the better students came to the professor asking for special consideration, because they had really, sincerely tried to stick to the discussion topics and understand the subject matter. So the professor bumped up a few of their grades to an A-. But the teaching assistants were given a severe warning not to stray from the course outline in the future.

The meaning of this parable is found in the Old Testament histories of the kings of Israel and Judah. The good kings followed God's laws, worshipping Him in the right way, and treating their fellow Jews fairly and with compassion, as Moses had taught them. In the Law of Moses we read - "...every seven years you must declare a cancellation of debts. This is the nature of the cancellation: Every creditor must remit what he has loaned to another person; he must not force payment from his fellow Israelite, for it is to be recognized as 'the LORD's cancellation of debts'" (Deut. 15:1-2). In this way, loans were limited to six years, practically eliminating the inflation caused by an ever-expanding money supply.

But the evil kings abandoned God's laws, enslaved fellow Israelites because of unpaid debts, closed down the Temple and set up altars to gods of sexual pleasure, gluttony and drunkenness, and even destroyed their own children at these altars to idols. Then a good king would come along and try to restore the right worship of God, tearing down the altars to idols, freeing the poor from debt slavery, and ridding the country of false priests. Such leaders as Nehemiah and Jeremiah had to confront the wealthy in Israel, because they had enslaved the poor by extending their loans, and would not release them according to the Law of Moses - see Neh. 5:1-12 and Jer. 34:13-17.

Another such example is King Hezekiah, described in 2 Chron. 29:2-6 -

He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the broad place on the east, and said to them, "Hear me, you Levites; now sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the sight of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs."

After tearing down the altars to idols, banning the false priests, re-installing the Aaronic priests and Levites, and restoring the Temple, Hezekiah summoned all the people of Israel and Judah to celebrate the Passover, even though some of the priests weren't quite ready and some of the people hadn't cleansed themselves:

They killed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought burnt offerings into the house of Yahweh. They stood in their place after their order, according to the law of Moses the man of God: the priests sprinkled the blood which they received of the hand of the Levites. For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves: therefore the Levites had the charge of killing the Passovers for everyone who was not clean, to sanctify them to the Lord. For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the Passover otherwise than it is written. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, "The good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, though not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." The Lord listened to Hezekiah, and healed the people (2 Chron. 30:15-20).

So it appears that God graded on a curve, at least in this instance, and "pardoned everyone who set his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, though not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." But we must be careful not to presume upon God's mercy, slipping into the idea that God will always forgive so we can do whatever we want: "Come, and let us return to the Lord; For he has torn us to pieces, and he will heal us; he has injured us, and he will bind up our wounds. After two days will he revive us. On the third day he will raise us up, and we will live before him. Let us acknowledge the Lord. Let us press on to know the Lord. As surely as the sun rises, the Lord will appear. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain that waters the earth" (Hosea 6:1-3). This sounds very much like sincere repentance!

But in the very next verses we read that God sees the heart:"Ephraim, what shall I do to you? Judah, what shall I do to you? For your love is like a morning cloud, And like the dew that disappears early. Therefore I have cut them to pieces with the prophets; I killed them with the words of my mouth. Your judgments are like a flash of lightning. For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they, like Adam, have broken the covenant. They were unfaithful to me there" (vv. 4-7). God "desires mercy, and not sacrifice," and knowing him more than performing external rituals.

In Luke 12:47-48 we read that Jesus Christ said - "That servant, who knew his lord's will, and didn't prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, but he who didn't know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes. To whoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked." We are responsible for what we know and how we prepare to do God's will acccording to that knowledge. The Lord might be merciful and "grade us on the curve" if we didn't have the opportunity to know Christ and thus to do God's will. But we must not presume upon God's mercy by hiding behind the question - "What about the heathen who have never heard the Gospel?" That's a moot point for us who have heard! We must become informed and prepared. "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins" (Heb. 10:26).

Toward the end, there will be wars, economic distress, famines, earthquakes, false teachers and persecutions:

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" Jesus answered them, "Be careful that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will lead many astray. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you aren't troubled, for all this must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in various places. But all these things are the beginning of birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to oppression, and will kill you. You will be hated by all of the nations for my name's sake. Then many will stumble, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another. Many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray. Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved" (Mat. 24:3-13).

So Does God Grade on a Curve? Sometimes... but don't even start to think you can take advantage of God's mercy! It too can be stretched, like a rubber band, to the breaking point. And pay off your loans: don't think the banks will just wipe them off their books!

By the way, my little parable about the economist was partly drawn from my teaching first-year economics students in the Mari El Republic of Russia 12-15 years ago. I was the professor, I wrote the course, taught it and led one of the discussion groups in which we reviewed each lecture. My teaching assistant led another discussion group, but let his students do whatever they wanted in it. At the final exam, my students averaged a full grade point higher than his students. It was at the time that the Euro was being introduced, and I warned the class about the danger of printing paper money with nothing substantial to back it up, exporting debt to other countries. Now the Euro is on the brink: Europe mulls major step towards "fiscal union" - it must either move forward, or fall apart.

Another application of the parable is the teaching of right worship and right doctrine (ortho-doxy means right worship and right doctrine): about 20% of Christians in the world are Orthodox, about 20% are conservative Protestants, another 20% are liberal Protestants, and roughly 40% are Roman Catholics - a mix of conservatives and liberals. Which ones do you think have the best chance of "getting a passing grade" - those who received the right teaching and put it into practice in right worship and service, or those who subtract from or add to the teachings of Christ, the Apostles and the Church Fathers? "Many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray. Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved." May we always discern the true teachers from the false prophets, and may our love for our true brothers and sisters in Christ never grow cold!

(Tell us what you think! Post your comments in our comment form!)


Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Praise the Lord that Russian Orthodox believers are helping their Greek co-believers in their economic distress.
Mon. - Pray for Pastor Valery Kim in Taldykorgan, Kazakhstan, whose Methodist church was forced to "voluntarily" close.
Tue. - Thank God for Patriarch Kirill's stand against "the idea of supremacy of autonomous reason, maximal freedom and atheism."
Wed. - Pray for unregistered Baptist Vasiliy Stakhnev in Kazakhstan, framed by police and fined for distributing religious literature.
Thu. - Ask the Lord that churches and religious organizations in Ukraine won't be lumped together with commercial institutions.
Fri. - Thank the Lord that the Russian-American Institute in Moscow is still in business, even after losing its accreditation.
Sat. - Pray that Christians will learn the moral consequences to bad financial decisions, and then teach others the right way.


Select to see full-size!   Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. He who thinks he can fully comprehend God... either has a very small god, or a very large head.


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